Today, Britain’s most popular newspaper The Sun, endorsed Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall as their preferred choice for victor. As we all know, the paper pursued a vicious editorial line against Labour for the past five years, particularly against Ed Miliband. So, if they really do think Liz is Labour’s ‘only chance’, why do they want her to triumph and give the party their ‘only chance’ to beat the Sun’s beloved Tory party?
The first and most obvious answer to give is that they know how much Labour activists hate their paper and Murdoch, and are aware that this endorsement won’t help her campaign much at all, and cement her as the ‘Blairite’ candidate. If they genuinely believe she is a big threat and want to neuter her, this makes good sense.
However, I think there are two greater reasons. Kendall is far and away the preference of most established hacks. Her language and policy positions play well with a commentariat who largely line up on the centre-right and only vary between liberal and conservative, and it makes sense for them to talk her up so much.
One of the reasons for this is that the Right tend to be less tribal and ideologically ‘pure’ than the Left. It is no surprise that Thatcher listed her greatest achievement as New Labour and said that Britain had ‘nothing to fear from a Blairite ministry’. Most Conservatives would rather their interests are protected than their party win. In contrast, Labour Left die-hards would rather their party lost and their interests eroded further rather than cede any ground to the Right. Now I’m not going to say Liz Kendall is a Tory – that’s far too simplistic – but it’s true that out of all four candidates she is the one who would make the least structural changes tackling power and elite interests. The Tories would always rather Labour had a right-wing leader rather than risk the possibility of a left-winger getting into power.
In this instance, however, I think the main reason is more simple. I think it is safe to say that it is very unlikely Liz will win the nomination. She has alienated many Labour members with her rhetoric on free schools, private healthcare in the NHS, tax and defence spending. Furthermore, she declared that Labour are ‘too reliant on union money’, isolating a core constituency. In short, she is fighting the 2020 General Election rather than the 2015 leadership election, and she does not have the charisma of early Blair to win over a sceptical base.
For the right-wing media, this is perfect. They can talk her up for three months as ‘the candidate the Tories fear’, ‘Labour’s only hope’ while knowing she almost certainly won’t win. Then, when she does fail they can all holler how Labour have blown their only chance, how they haven’t learnt from when they picked the wrong brother, how they are rooted in the past and not worthy of consideration. It’s a simple enough game-plan, but have no doubt that it will work.